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Posted Tuesday, October 20, 2009, at 9:13 AM

There are certain passages in a man's life which stand out. For unclear reasons we call these passages "birthdays," although they are not the day of one's birth at all. Barring any historically specific incident, the day itself is not remembered. Only the import to the man remains.

The first is probably age 8. You're not a baby any more; you're "a big boy now." There are no particular benefits attached to being a big boy.

Next comes 12, when you have to pay for an adult ticket at the local movie theater. From now on it's a quarter, not a dime. And you don't get in free with a parent, either.

There is something important about turning 13 -- now you're a teenager. No one tells you the hardest six years of your entire life lie immediately before you.

Everyone knows what happens at 16 -- driver's license! People do tell you, but you manage to ignore the fact one 16 year old a year dies in an auto accident at your school.

Within five days of turning 18 a man is required to register for the draft. Still have my draft card.

Back in the day turning 21 meant you could drink and register to vote. First time I tried to buy liquor was told the store policy was to not sell to anyone under 25 -- never got back to that liquor thing. I did register so I could vote for Barry Goldwater -- continued to vote since, anyhow.

My father often quoted a teacher who said, "A man has no sense at all until he's 30, and nothing to say until he's 40." She was closer to being right than to wrong.

Fifty is significant, I don't remember why. Maybe it's because my father died at 50 and he seemed like such an old man. I was all of 23 at the time. Fifty no longer seems all that old.

All my life "retirement" age was seen as 65. This milestone paled for me as I'd taken the money and run at the earliest possible date -- 63.

Turning 66, which I did the day this was written, is ripe with insignificance and devoid of relevance. Like most birthdays, it is simply a day for taking stock:

The good news is that according to livingto100.com I have 15 years left. Bad news is I've already lived long enough to know how futile are such calculations.

As of now I have been driving for 50 years without a "chargeable" accident. It seems longer, and may sound better, when you say it out loud.

The only tangible outcome to all those birthdays comes down to a wife you would not want to have lived it without, five great kids, and (how many?) grandchildren.

For men of a certain age a song which carries both great significance and great relevance is "Yesterday When I Was Young":

The thousand dreams I dreamed, the splendid things I planned

I always built, alas, on weak and shifting sand

I lived by night and shunned the naked light of day

And only now I see how the years ran away

Yesterday when I was young

David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at kayanddavid@joink.com.

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